Friday, June 29, 2007

Back from Paris (or, hope you've got bandwidth)

Okay, so I have been pretty lousy about updates. I'll see what I can do, but for now a brief summary of my trip in France with Marylyle, mostly in pictures.

As I mentioned in my last ancient post, I went to a really cool North African market. This is what it looked like:
That afternoon I snapped a pretty cool picture of the Sacre Coeur with a violinist in the foreground:

Being Paris, the Eiffel Tower was unavoidable:
For those of you who have never met her, that's Marylyle on the right. Cutie, huh?
That evening we went to to the Paris mosque, which was fun. Around the corner is an overpriced tea room where I took a picture of this:
(The green blob in the foreground is Turkish Delight)
The next two days were museums; I took loads of pictures but most of them are of things you could probably google or something.
We left for Parc Astrix, pretty much the only thing we had actually planned for the whole trip.
Parc Asterix is a standard amusement park with loads of rollercoasters all based around the theme of this famous French cartoon character:
He's bestest buddies with Oberlix, here seen in the background:
That's Asterix in the front. He's pointing to his ears because he "can't hear" the little children screaming "Astérix! Astérix" at the top of their lungs.

Oberlix is very large. As proof, here are pictures of Marylyle and I trying out his "shoes":

We stayed at a hotel inside the park, which was very cool (and surrounded by trees), but unfortunately because the park was closed the next day we were forced to get a taxi to the nearest train station. The taxi driver suggest we skip the west coast (which we had been planning on) because of the weather. He suggested Perpignon instead. All the trains were sold out, which meant instead we went to Pau.
No great loss, though. Here is what the landscape around Pau looks like (you reach this viewpoint by taking a free funicular up from the station):
And this is what one of the town squares looks like:
Pau was my probably one of my favorite places during the trip to France. It was also the source of our best food on the whole trip: Brasserie Berry's. I'm sorry I never took pictures of the food there, it was really really good. We went there twice: the first time Marylyle had a green salad and white beans, and was going to order another vegetable until I encouraged/forced her to try a half-portion of the steak tartare, which turned out to be enormous (larger than most restaurants' full portion size) but unbelievable tasty. I think I might have eaten most of it accidentally. I ordered an appetizer of artichoke hearts followed by Tuna Basque-style (which apparently means cooked with loads of tomatoes and onions). There were so many items on the menu I was tempted to go there for every meal but we only managed a second visit, where to make up for loss time I ordered 3 half portions, which was something of a mistake since like the tartare they were huge: herrings (delicious and about the size of a "full" serving anywhere else); brains (you know me -- I have to try weird things) which tasted vaguely like butter and were overwhelmingly rich, this time in a portion easily twice what you'd get in a normal portion anywhere else (maybe the "half" meant "half of a brain"?), and a perfectly good (I think, I was too full to fully enjoy it) chateaubriand steak. Marylyle was the sensible one and ordered magret de canard, which was a specialty of the region and absolutely unbelievably delicious.
One of the days in Pau we took a day trip to a large cave (which included a pretty dorky underground boat ride and an absolutely wickedly awesome underground train ride) followed by a visit to Lourdes, which is unbelievably touristy. Still it's a nice looking town:
Here's a view from the main church, looking down at all the tourists below:
The water of Lourdes is thought to have magic healing properties, but I wouldn't drink it.
The next day we headed to Perpignan finally, spending a day there. There's some pretty cool architecture in Perpignan and the city has a nice feel to it, although it's a bit touristy and also overrun by vagabonds (a trend I also noticed in Montpellier).
From Perpignan, we headed to the charming beach town of Collioure. Here are two lovely panoramas to show how pretty it was:
We wanted to go back up to the Loire afterwards, but due to the way that the TGV system works, it would have taken all day and costed a fortune, so instead we went east to Montpellier. Montpellier is overwhelmingly a student town, I can only imagine how it could have looked if we were there during school season. As it was, it was pretty crowded and the hotels were all nearly booked up for the Fete de la Musique the next day. We spent most of the time in Montpellier just wandering around, which is apparently what you do in Montpellier. The evening of the festival we went out looking for music, which initially was a bit difficult (in a moment of brilliance I neglected to bring with my either a map or the schedule of performances). It turned out eventually that this was not a problem: the music would find you. Bands were playing right out on the street:
This was the weirdest perfomance, a couple of guys playing ear-shattering electronic "music" on a combination of modded kid's keyboards and a Speak & Spell:

...back to Paris. Last three days before we had to head home. We spent the first day wandering around the Isles and the Marais. The next day was my birthday (!) so we spent the day just having fun and wandering around the fun bits of Paris. We'd planned on getting falafel for lunch, forgetting that it was Saturday and of course all the good shops along Rue de Rosiers (all Jewish) would be closed. We ended up eating a place that serves the same kind of food (with less scruples, I guess) and absolutely stuffed our faces. We went down to the Latin Quarter and stumbled onto a whole slew of comic books stores and spent a long time browsing through them. That evening we went to a fairly swanky restaurant where I had grilled tuna with sugar snap peas. Marylyle had magret de canard tartare -- that is, raw ground up duck breast. I'd always heard that you should never eat raw chicken, but I guess duck is okay because both of us are alive and in good health. It was a kinda strange tasting, though--slightly bitter and fatty.

Guess who we ran into in Paris?
Of course Marylyle got into a rant about the fact that James Monroe was a diplomat in France longer than Jefferson was. Whatever. Who's on the nickel? Who?

There aren't that many interesting pictures from the second time in Paris. One evening we decided to take loads of funny pictures of each other.

I was able to get a lot of cool pictures of Marylyle, here's my favorite (although it's really blurry):
I'm not quite as good at looking cool in front of the camera:

That's the trip! Stay tuned to see if I ever post here again. :-)

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